Friday, October 22, 2010

The Serbian Community in America and Washington D.C. - Let this serve as an Example... / St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Cathedral, New York, George Vujnovich, and U.S. Congressman Joseph Crowley [D. NY]

Aleksandra's Note: When I consider such correspondence as the following between the Serbian community in America and America's representatives in Washington, D.C., I cannot help but think that had relations between Washington, D.C. and the Serbian community gone this way beginning in 1991 to the present, it would be a whole different world in the Balkans today.

A much better world in the Balkans...

Thank you to you, Mr. Milinkovich, and to your parish of St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Cathedral in New York City, for showing the world what the Serbian community in America is really all about. You have made me, as an American Serb, so proud, and I know many others share my gratitude.

And to you, Congressman Crowley, thank you for recognizing the importance of the "Halyard Mission" and those who were part of it. It is my hope that more of your associates in Washington follow your lead.

Let this serve as an example of how things should be done...


Aleksandra Rebic



Dear Nenad,

I heard that the event was a terrific success and that is owed in large part to your commitment and hard work. I think that your offer to host the celebration at the Church speaks volumes about the cohesiveness of your congregation and the community spirit that energizes your beautiful church. The Congressman was very grateful to you and Saint Sava’s Church for taking the time to really make the medal presentation a momentous and memorable occasion for Mr. Vujnovich who had patiently awaited this well-deserved honor.

If I can ever be of assistance to you, do not hesitate to contact me.

Best Wishes,


Annette M. Juriaco
Deputy District Director
Congressman Joseph Crowley (NY-07)
Bronx, New York 10465


Crowley gives Jackson Heights man the Bronze Star

By Rebecca Henely
Thursday, October 21, 2010 12:14 PM EDT

Jackson Heights resident George Vujnovich (center) receives
 the Bronze Star
from U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley for rescuing 500 pilots downed in
Nazi-occupied Yugoslavia in World War II.
Tony Orsini (left), one of the rescued airmen, and
Nenad Milinkovic, behind Vujnovich, applaud.
Pictured in the frame is General Draza Mihailovich. 
AP PHOTO/Diane Bondareff

U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) presented World War II veteran and Jackson Heights resident George Vujnovich with the Bronze Star at a Manhattan church Sunday for his service during a formerly secret mission to rescue 512 Allied pilots in Yugoslavia.

“George Vujnovich orchestrated what is believed to be the largest airlift rescue mission behind enemy lines. Yet, his extraordinary story has — until now — escaped headlines,” Crowley said in a statement.

Vujnovich, 95, a small businessman for more than 50 years, had kept his role in organizing Operation Halyard in World War II a secret even from his closest friends, The New York Times reported. During the war, Vujnovich had served in the U.S. Office of Strategic Services, a predecessor of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

“There was a strict rule in the OSS [to] not talk about these things — they teach you to compartmentalize them and lock them away,” Vujnovich told the Times.

The operation occurred in 1944, when Allied airmen flying over Europe were shot down while attempting to immobilize the Ploesti oil complex, Nazi Chancellor Adolf Hitler’s most important oil pipeline. The attacks meant many soldiers were trapped within Axis territory, Crowley’s office said.

Through the help of Vujnovich’s wife, who worked at the Yugoslav embassy and revealed the location of the airmen to her husband; Gen. Draza Mihailovich, a Yugoslav guerilla leader; and Serbians who had safeguarded the shot-down pilots, Vujnovich planned with the OSS an operation to airlift the soldiers out of the territory without the Nazis’ noticing. The operation was 100 percent successful, Crowley’s office said.

Due to the U.S. government’s support for the communist leader of Yugoslavia, Josip Broz Tito, who was an enemy of Mihailovich, the government kept the operation secret for many years, Crowley said. The congressmen had urged the government to give Vujnovich the long-overdue medal for his actions earlier in 2010.

“Better now than never,” Vujnovich told the Times.

Crowley presented the Bronze Star to Vujnovich at the St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Cathedral.

“George has our eternal respect and admiration, and our nation will forever be grateful,” Crowley said. “Jackson Heights, and all of New York for that matter, is proud to be home to a true American hero.”


If you would like to get in touch with me, Aleksandra, please feel free to contact me at


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